Desmond Wheatley is President and CEO of Beam Global, an electric vehicle charging technologies company.

We live during an era in which technologies that seemed like science fiction just a quarter of a century ago are now commonplace in our everyday lives. And yet the power that makes them all operate is still delivered by infrastructure that has been in existence for over 100 years with almost no fundamental improvement during that time. In my view, the utility grid is simply not able to reliably deliver the most essential commodity that human beings rely on today after water, air and food. As the CEO of a clean energy company and the holder of multiple renewable energy patents, I am deeply concerned about the consequences of our vulnerable grid.

We have seen frozen natural gas supplies and blackouts caused by consumers turning up their AC during heatwaves disrupt electricity supplies with increasing regularity. There are recorded instances in which bad actors have deliberately shut down sections of the grid by attacking substations and other infrastructure, and we are now aware of the potential of cyber attacks to penetrate our vital utility infrastructure.

The fact that bad weather or high consumer demand can cause our most vital infrastructure to fail is antithetical to the course being charted by every other industry. Imagine if Amazon simply stopped delivering packages because people were ordering too many items. Consumers would be unforgiving if this happened, and yet find themselves so conditioned to grid failure that blackouts are received with (mostly) quiet stoicism.

Solving for this strange and increasingly insupportable stasis in our most vital infrastructure will require a multi-faceted strategy. I think we need more generation quickly and decentralization of infrastructure to protect us from the single points of failure which create vulnerability. And we need electricity delivered to highly diverse locations in ways which were never imagined by the original architects of the utility grid. Solutions to these challenges exist today. Among the potential solutions, microgrids, nanogrids and even "quantum grids" can scale rapidly, increase resiliency and react to rapid shifts in demand in ways which the centralized grid will never be able to mimic. As an enhancement to the grid, they can help us ensure that our increasingly electrified future is met with a robust and sufficient supply of what will become the fuel that powers everything.

The Sustainable Power Of Microgrids

Microgrids - local, self-sufficient power networks - provide a decentralized alternative to a single power grid and can help mitigate the consequences of large-scale power failures, minimize security threats and protect areas across the country from the energy consequences of climate change. Here are three key areas where microgrids can solve longstanding issues with our power grid:

1. Assist Existing Power Supply For Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are rising in popularity. While the benefits of EVs are clear, an increased number of EVs poses a problem for centralized power grids. The rapidly increasing capacity requirements have led experts to forecast that nationwide power generation will need to double by 2050 to keep up with demand. Microgrids can provide a way to increase access to power. (Disclosure: My company provides this technology.)

2. Improve Security

Microgrids help mitigate risk by avoiding the centralized vulnerabilities common to the existing power grid. The U.S. military already utilizes microgrids to maintain power during critical missions and has established partnerships with both the public and private sectors to help with overall energy resilience. Microgrids can help improve overall national security by ensuring that power stays on during attacks designed to target power sources as well as during weather events that can knock out a centralized system.

3. Provide Reliable Emergency Care

While hospitals have historically relied on backup diesel generators in the event of an outage, more providers are investing in microgrids as a way to maintain power through storms and blackouts. Microgrids offer a cost-effective and often environmentally friendly safety net where it is needed most. They help maintain patient safety and provide a sustainable independent energy infrastructure that satisfies the need for more robust health security preparedness.


The biggest downside for microgrids today is the time it would take to reach critical mass. Today, there are less than 200 microgrids in the U.S., which are concentrated in only seven states, so we're a long way from having enough supply to meet the continuously rising demand for power.

It will also take time to shift current cultural mindsets in terms of how the public perceives renewable energy. Right now, I've noticed there is a broad misconception that the renewable energy sources that power microgrids are unreliable and inconsistent. Some people believe that inclement weather prevents solar power from being a stable source of energy. The truth is that nothing is more reliable than the fact that the sun rises every day, and solar panels still generate power from indirect light. However, it can take a long time to educate the masses and dispel these deeply engrained myths. This is a major barrier to widespread implementation of microgrids.

Just as we've revolutionized other areas of technology, we must radically upgrade the very source of power upon which all these new breakthroughs rely. Business leaders and entrepreneurs should take an innovative and secure approach to transform an outdated power grid into a robust and reliable system with reduced vulnerability to failure and without reliance on fossil fuels; one that can keep up with technology and survive and even adapt during extreme situations. Appropriate legislative and regulatory forces, combined with investment in current and future technologies, can help power our increasingly technology-driven future.

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Beam Global published this content on 11 November 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 11 November 2021 17:26:06 UTC.